April 24, 2013

Movie Dope

Short Descriptions of Movies Playing in and Around Athens...

42 (PG-13) Sports biopics are largely interchangeable. The sports and the players may change, but the obstacles to overcome are nearly identical. Heck, the same could be said of any biopic, musical, sport, etc. Still, something about the challenges faced by Jackie Robinson (gracefully inhabited by unknown Chadwick Boseman) as he broke the color barrier in professional baseball feels so much more singular than your average true tale of successfully bucking the odds. When signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, Robinson faced derision by his teammates, opposing players and coaches (embodied by Alan Tudyk as Phillies manager Ben Chapman) and the fans. The role of Robinson requires a special actor giving a special performance. Boseman’s is not a skilled mimicry like so many other portrayals of famous persons; he imbues Robinson with such strength of character and composure. Equally important to this tale is Dodgers exec Branch Rickey, so gruffly played by Harrison Ford, who may finally be making the transition into grand old actor. Writer-director Brian Helgeland does nothing unique as he recounts this cinematic biography, but his film reads quickly, entertainingly and informatively. What more could you ask of a biopic?

AT ANY PRICE (R) The trailer sports a lot of impressive critical quotes, including one from the sorely missed Roger Ebert, but its two-minute reduction of this tale of fathers and sons, farmers and race car drivers feels a bit too familiar. Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron star as a farmer and his rebellious, racing son. When a crisis threatens to take everything from this family, their bond is tested more than ever. Director Ramin Bahrani could use a high profile film to go with his critical hits Goodbye Solo, Chop Shop and Man Push Cart. With Heather Graham, Kim Dickens and Clancy Brown.

THE BIG WEDDING (R) A strong cast—Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl, Diane Keaton, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, Ben Barnes, Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams—highlight this wedding comedy from The Bucket List screenwriter, Justin Zackham. Divorced couple, Don and Ellie Griffin (De Niro and Keaton), must play happily married for the wedding of their adopted son (Barnes), when his conservative biological mother decides to attend. The Big Wedding is a remake of the 2006 French film, Mon frère se marie.

THE CALL (R) Until a final act that is so predictably out of character for Halle Berry’s heroine, The Call knows exactly what it is; a pulpy genre thriller; and excels at its sole task of generating as much entertainment as possible via suspense. After feeling responsible for the death of a teenage girl, veteran 911 operator Jordan Turner (Berry) is reluctant to take another emergency call. But when another teenager, Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin), is kidnapped by the same nondescript white guy, Jordan makes it her mission to save this victim. Considering the leads interact via telephone for the majority of the movie, it was smart to cast a beautiful, if strangely bewigged, Academy Award winner and a cute, all grown up former child nominee. Couple those two talented actresses with the claustrophobia and helplessness of the central locations, and the audience is treated to a pretty gripping first two acts; the last act is not awful, just an uncreative, poor relation to its predecessors. Director Brad Anderson (Session 9, The Machinist, Transsiberian) gets as much tension as he can out of this script and should have his first bona fide hit to show for the effort. Answer this Call.

THE CROODS (PG) Despite its underwhelming trailers, The Croods stands out as one of the best non-Pixar animated family films released in the last few years. A family of cavemen—dad Grug (v. Nicolas Cage), mom Ugga (v. Catherine Keener), teen daughter Eep (v. Emma Stone), dumb son Thunk (v. Clarke Duke), feral baby Sandy and grandma (v. Cloris Leachman)—are forced on a cross-country road trip after their cave is destroyed by the impending “end of the world.” Fortunately, Eep meets Guy (v. Ryan Reynolds), whose developed brain filled with “ideas” might just help them all survive. Most cute family fun pics feel rehashed and overdone; The Croods does not. Its characters successfully, though unbelievably, combine the Flintstones with the Simpsons, and the voice acting, particularly by Cage, Stone and Reynolds sparkles. Cage was an inspired choice, for a role one would think is practically written for Kevin James. Most animated features, with their paint-by-numbers plot and rote, child-pleasing gags lose an adult’s attention within minutes of beginning. The Croods held my rapt attention for its entire entertaining run time and left me considering potential plots for its inevitable, disappointing sequel.

EVEN THE RAIN (NR) 2010. Icíar Bollaín directs this Spanish film based on a true story about a film crew that spurred protests in Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2000 over privatization of the water works. With Gael Garcia Bernal. (Ciné)

EVIL DEAD (R) The remake of Sam Raimi’s cult classic is more important for what it represents—an R-rated gorefest released into mainstream multiplexes—than what it is: an above average horror movie. Picking up some time A.A. (After Ash; see Ash’s car rusting away behind the cabin), 2013’s Evil Dead puts five new young people (including Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez and Lou Taylor Pucci) through the horrific, maddening, limb-threatening paces. When will young people learn not to read from a book bound in human skin? What Evil Dead gets right is the massive amounts of blood poured upon its actors. Director Fede Alvarez also shows (borrows) the stylistic imagination of a young Raimi. Still, the importance of Bruce Campbell’s Ash was underestimated. The new victims don’t generate any connection with the audience. Evil Dead also lacks a tonal identity. Does it want to be fun or discomfortingly intense? It’s neither. (I’d like to see Diablo Cody’s original version for its distinctive tone, if nothing else.) Gorehounds (like me) are going to see Evil Dead no matter what, but if the droves of teenage horror fans show up, a new generation of horror movies that deliver the gory goods we want can begin.

FRENZY (R) 1972. Screening as part of Ciné’s 6th Anniversary Celebration, Frenzy is Alfred Hitchcock’s penultimate film. A serial killer, whose M.O. is strangling young women with a necktie, is on the loose in London. Too bad the police have the wrong man. That description makes this Hitch flick sound very Giallo-like. Richard Allen, the chair of the Department of Cinema Studies at NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts and a Hitchcock scholar, will be discussing the film at the Monday, Apr. 22 screening. (Ciné)

FROM UP ON POPPY HILL (PG) 2011. Legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki collaborates with his son Goro’s second feature. (His first was Tales from Earthsea.) As the 1964 Tokyo Olympics approach, a group of teenagers in Yokohama seek to save their school clubhouse. The English-language voice cast includes Gillian Anderson, Sarah Bolger, Beau Bridges, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Dern, Christina Hendricks, Chris Noth, Aubrey Plaza and Anton Yelchin. Japan’s biggest domestic hit of 2011 won the Best Animation Film prize from the Awards of the Japanese Academy. 

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION (PG-13) G.I. Joe: Retaliation is everything that G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was not. The second Joe movie is also the movie for which my inner child has been waiting since 1987. Mostly ignoring Stephen Sommers’ 2009 misfire, this franchise reboot introduces three new lead Joes: Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) and my childhood favorite, Flint (D.J. Cotrona); Duke (Channing Tatum) and Snake Eyes (Ray Park) are pretty much the only other Joes to reenlist for the sequel. Featured Cobra players—Zartan, who appears as the President (Jonathan Pryce) for almost the entire movie, Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) and Firefly (Ray Stevenson)—plot to break Cobra Commander, much improved from the first movie, from a super-secret prison. (Sadly, no love is shown for Destro in this prison break.) But the plot is inconsequential. G.I. Joe blows stuff up real good. Director Jon M. Chu (Step Up 2 and 3) proves as proficient filming action stunts as kinetic choreography. The mountainside ninja battle is an exciting sequence that could’ve been ripped right from the popular 80s cartoon. G.I. Joe: Retaliation has just the right amount of stupid smarts (and Bruce Willis) to be a nostalgic blast of action.

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (R) Do audiences find Bruce Willis’ New York Detective John McClane running into trouble for a fifth time, in Russia, with his CIA operative son (Jack Reacher’s Jai Courtney), believable? Does it matter? Maybe. R-rated action is not doing so hot, with Arnold’s The Last Stand and Sly’s Bullet to the Head both underperforming their already low expectations. Respectable but unexciting action director John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines, Flight of the Phoenix, The Omen and Max Payne) should be better than Live and Let Die Hard’s Len Wiseman.

IDENTITY THIEF (R) Unfortunately, stars Melissa McCarthy (an Oscar nominee for Bridesmaids) and Jason Bateman are better than this more-annoying-than-funny odd couple road comedy. With two kids and another on the way, Sandy Patterson (Bateman) is struggling to make ends meet. Having his identity stolen by friendless Diana (McCarthy) only further aggravates his financial distress. In desperation, Sandy travels to Florida to bring his tormentor to justice. Inexplicably and unnecessarily on their heels are a couple of drug enforcers (Genesis Rodriguez and Tip “T.I.” Harris) and a mean ass bounty hunter (a pretty much wasted Robert Patrick). Strangely, the gags work best when Bateman’s straight man and McCarthy’s manic criminal bond rather than fight. Too bad the mean-spirited comic scenarios cooked up by screenwriter Craig Mazin (Scary Movies 3 and 4 and The Hangover: Parts II and III) lack originality. The punch lines lack the subtlety that brings out Bateman’s greatness. Director Seth Gordon (The King of Kong and Horrible Bosses) and his hilarious stars have done and will do comedy better.

JURASSIC PARK 3D (PG-13) Some movies are made to be watched dozens upon hundreds of times at home on TV; Jurassic Park is not one of those movies. It deserves, nay, requires being seen in a theater, on a big screen, accompanied by booming theatrical sound. One thing JP does not require is 3D; a 2D theatrical screening of Steven Spielberg’s last classic blockbuster will suffice. This 20-year-old, effects-laden, dino-disaster pic, based on Michael Crichton’s giddy sci-fi adventure, has aged much better than your last home viewing experience has you remembering it. The first moment Drs. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Ian Malcolm (the always entertaining Jeff Goldblum) see a dinosaur can still thrill, even after the intervening years and improved effects. (A hefty chunk of that credit goes to John Williams’ score, which stands alongside his greatest works.) If you’ve got a kid or a younger sibling that has never seen Jurassic Park, take them on a visit to John Hammond’s magically dangerous kingdom, courtesy of the wonderful cinematic imagination of Steven Spielberg. Or see it on your own and relive the memories of that glorious summer afternoon in 1993 when dinosaurs again ruled the Earth.

THE LAST EXORCISM (PG-13) 2010. Charismatic preacher Rev. Cotton Marcus makes plans to perform one last exorcism after years of swindling believers, and allows a film crew to capture his confession. When he arrives at the farm of Louis Sweetzer, whose daughter Nell is possessed by a demon, he finds that he may not have the experience he needs for the job.

LOW BLOW (R) 1986. Joe Wong (Leo Fong) is a private investigator hired by a rich dude to save his daughter from the cult, led by blind, wheelchair bound Yarakunda (Cameron Mitchell, best remembered for the TV series “The High Chaparral”), who has brainwashed her. Teenage heartthrob Troy Donahue appears, but nobody cares. The old VHS box sports the great tagline, “The Deadliest Weapon Is Still Your Fist.” Director Frank Harris has a filmography that would not recommend his hiring. Part of Ciné's Bad Movie Night. (Ciné)

MUD (R) Writer-director Jeff Nichols hit the critical, if not commercial, jackpot with his last film, Take Shelter. His latest stars Matthew McConaughey, who is on a hot streak with the critics himself (Bernie, Killer Joe and Magic Mike really helped his profile), as Mud, a fugitive trying to reunite with his girlfriend, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). Mud gets help from two Arkansas teens, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland). Nichols received a Palme d’Or nomination for this film, for which anticipation is building thanks to a powerful trailer.

NO (R) Pablo Larrain’s fourth feature is one of the Academy Award nominees for Best Foreign Language Film. In 1988 Chile, ad exec Rene Saavedra (Y Tu Mama Tambien’s Gael Garcia Bernal; think Don Draper en Español) plots to defeat Augusto Pinochet. Larrain’s previous features Fuga, Tony Manero and Post Mortem have yet to break through in the United States; this Oscar nominee could be it. Featuring Jane Fonda, Richard Dreyfuss, Christopher Reeve and Augusto Pinochet as themselves. (Ciné)

• OBLIVION (PG-13) The new Tom Cruise action, sci-fi spectacle is a doozy of a looker. Everything from the set design to the vehicle design to the music (scored by M83) is stylishly crafted and a visual/aural knockout. After fighting off an alien invasion via nuclear destruction, humanity has moved off-planet to Titan, a moon of Saturn. Two people, tech Jack Harper (Tom Cruise, who is arguably the best preserved man on the planet) and his communications liaison Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), have been left behind, tasked to protect the giant hydroreactors that power Titan using remnants of the alien invaders. But Jack's world is turned upside down by the arrival of a NASA scientist (Olga Kurylenko) of whom Jack has been dreaming, and by the discovery of human survivors, led by Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman). Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski co-scripted Oblivion from his own graphic novel, and despite its derivative pieces, the whole narrative coheres rather well. It's the rare video game-inspired movie that I enjoyed watching alone; I never once thought I'd rather be playing Oblivion. This late-April, pre-summer salvo has set the blockbuster bar higher than expected; hopefully summer 2013's entrants can clear it. Hear that, Iron Man 3?

OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (R) Olympus Has Fallen feels like a relic from the bygone era of the 1980s, where audiences were satisfied by old-fashioned, bloody action movies wherein stone-faced heroes faced off against despicable bad guys without obfuscating their violent exploits with frenetic camerawork. Too bad director Antoine Fuqua’s latest flick isn’t the new Die Hard, as this Gerard Butler-saves-the-president actioner easily bests John McClane’s latest misfire. Disgraced Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Butler, who needs to stick to action movies) is the only person in America who can save the President (Aaron Eckhart) after North Korean terrorists take over the White House. The movie relies quite heavily on Butler’s manliness. Luckily, no one is more badass than the Scot best known as 300’s King Leonidas (when he’s not wooing Katherine Heigl or Jessica Biel). The supporting cast keeps up better than usual, which should not surprise considering the presence of Morgan Freeman (as the Speaker of the House), Melissa Leo, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Dylan McDermott, Radha Mitchell and Cole Hauser. With a franchise-worthy new hero and a well-choreographed, well-shot focus on physical conflict, Olympus Has Fallen kicks butt better than the muscular bulk of recent action movies.

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (PG) First and foremost, Sam Raimi’s The Wizard of Oz prequel is no Wizard; it’s not even Return to Oz, the very dark, very underrated 1985 sequel. Disney’s latest family blockbuster reveals the wizard’s own cyclonic entry to Oz. Carnival magician and con man Oscar Diggs (James Franco, whose performance is nothing if not inconsistent) meets three witches—Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams)—who believe him to be the great wizard whose appearance in Oz was prophesied. In the void left by the recently deceased king, Oscar must determine which witches are wicked and which are good. Raimi trots out his usual visual wizardry, and Oz is as successful as his first Spider-Man entry once it gets going. The middle act gets a bit logy as the good people of Oz prepare for battle via sewing montages. The climax is filled with whiz-band special effects, used effectively, and ties in well with the classic film being emulated. I just wish Raimi had chosen to make his Wicked Witch via makeup, like the original’s Margaret Hamilton, as opposed to CGI. Oz won’t make anyone forget the original, but it doesn’t shame its memory either.

PAIN & GAIN (NR) Against my better judgment, I get a kick out of the Pain & Gain trailer, despite it being a Michael Bay film. (I know; I’m supposed to hate all things Bay on principle alone.) But Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie seem delightful as bodybuilders turned criminals in a get rich quick scheme that goes comically awry. The script, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (multiple Narnias and both Captain Americas), is based on a true story.

PAY IT FORWARD (PG-13) 2000. I have avoided this sentimental film (how was it not directed by Lasse Hallstrom?) ever since it was scathingly reviewed by critics. Based on the novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde and directed by Mimi Leder (Deep Impact), Pay It Forward sought to capitalize off Haley Joel Osment’s Sixth Sense success. A young boy is encouraged by a new social studies teacher (Kevin Spacey) to come up with a project to change the world. The boy devises a scheme to pay good deeds forward.

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (R) The Place Beyond the Pines is an easy film to laud, an easier film to critique, but a tough film to recommend. At two hours and twenty minutes, writer-director Derek Cianfrance’s follow-up to Blue Valentine is constructed like three short stories, all connected by one major event. In the first story, Ryan Gosling stars as Luke Glanton, a stunt bike rider who turns to bank robbery to take care of his young son and baby mama (Eva Mendes). The second story stars Bradley Cooper as Avery Cross, a rookie police officer turned hero turned whistleblower. The final arc connects the two men via their similarly aged sons in ways much less profound than the somber film or its imperious running time imply. The Gosling-led initial sequence is the strongest; it carries the aura of Michael Man(n)hunter that influenced Drive, thanks largely to the soundtrack by Faith No More’s Mike Patton, which offers hints of Clint Mansell and Angelo Badalamenti. (Despite its enigmatic title, the film lacks any other similarities to David Lynch.) An ambitious character study of fathers and sons, The Place Beyond the Pines isn’t an easy watch, but is ultimately more rewarding than arduous.

QUARTET (PG-13) In his directorial debut, Dustin Hoffman fashions a delightful trifle filled with deliciously British performances from Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins, Michael Gambon and more. At Beecham House, a home for retired musicians, plans are afoot for a gala to celebrate Verdi’s birthday. Drama arrives in the form of an aging diva, Jean Horton, who is also the ex-wife of another resident (Courtenay). Smith is her usually grand self (and as her actual age, not older, for once!). It’s wonderful to see Courtenay and Collins as featured players. Renowned scene stealer Connolly is up to his old tricks as aged horndog Wilf. Hoffman unfussily directs Oscar winner Ronald Harwood’s play with an actor’s generosity for his actors. Anyone who enjoyed their stay at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel should also enjoy the performances of Quartet. (Ciné)

THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST (R) A Pakistani immigrant (Riz Ahmed) under suspicion of involvement with the kidnapping of an American citizen, recounts his experiences on Wall Street before and after 9/11. Early buzz isn’t quite sure what to make of The Namesake director Mira Nair’s turning Mohsin Hamid’s novel into a thriller. The trailer is intriguing, and the film did win the Audience Award for Favorite World Feature at the Mill Valley Film Festival. With Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber and Kiefer Sutherland.

THE ROOM (R) The Room, from baffling “auteur” Tommy Wiseau, might be the Mona Lisa of bad movies; its greatness lies in its mysterious smile, which a laughing Wiseau trots out at the oddest moments. Johnny (writer-producer-director-star-charlatan Wiseau) is engaged to “beautiful” blonde Lisa (Juliette Danielle), who embarks on an affair with Johnny’s “best friend,” Mark (Greg Sestero), for no apparent reason, which may be why she constantly reminds him (and us) that she loves him. The Room will leave you with so many questions that don’t need answering. Did Johnny and Lisa get married? (The infamous tuxedo scene says yes but is contradicted by later dialogue.) What about Claudette’s cancer? Who uses a fake pregnancy bomb to spice up an uninteresting relationship? Why do they want to throw the football so much? Why must everyone keep repeating Mark’s status as Johnny’s “best friend?” Why am I in a theater at one in the morning watching this strange, hysterical man vomit drama on the big screen? (Ciné)

SAFE HAVEN (PG-13) One thing I enjoy about reviewing movies is having a readymade excuse for watching sappy romances like Safe Haven. I’ve been curious as to what the big mystery is since the first trailer; plus, Julianne Hough is really attractive. Unfortunately, the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation, set in another North Carolina paradise, is one solved mystery away from just being one couple’s two hour how we met story. Pretty, young Katie is on the run from a constantly drunk, really sweaty cop (“Revolution” star David Lyons). Lucky for her, a hot widower, Alex (Josh Duhamel), with two cute kids is ready to love again. Wondering how this romance is ultimately different from Sleeping with the Enemy? Then prepare for the laughable, Shyamalan-esque, climactic twist. Still, Safe Haven is competently, if unexcitingly, made by Academy Award nominee Lasse Hallstrom, but The Notebook need not worry. Its legacy as the gold standard for this sort of Sparks-ian cinematic page turner is under no threat.

SCARY MOVIE V (PG-13) So, Scary Movie is back. What do you really need to know? A Paranormal Activity/Mama mashup provides the frame that is rattily covered by an hour and thirty minutes of puerile, scattershot jokes. A Black Swan B-plot? Real timely, David Zucker and Pat Proft, who’ve done this parody thing so much more successfully in their shared Naked Gun past. Airplane! worked as a spoof of disaster movies that developed its own witty gags. The Scary Movies simply tosses pop culture references and cameos by celebrities who have passed their sell-by date with no real interest in spoofing the genre they allegedly came to spoof; if Mike Tyson meets Fifty Shades of Grey jokes make you giggle, be my guest. How did they get that Evil Dead sequence (the movie’s strongest, at that) into theaters within a week of its release? At least A Haunted House had Marlon Wayans. Simon Rex is some weak comic sauce. The absolutely frightening aspect of this movie is the thought that enough people might venture to see it to warrant a sixth entry.

TRANCE (R) Do not think too hard about Trance’s mesmerizing complex plot once it’s over, or else risk smashing the exquisitely designed psycho-thriller. Academy Award winner Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) reunites with his Shallow Grave and Trainspotting writer, John Hodge (word of warning: Hodge also wrote Boyle’s disappointing A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach), but either Hodge wrote too smartly for the film’s own good or Boyle couldn’t care less about whether or not his films make sense (a fair critique of many of his films). Here, the third act is thrilling, but good luck unraveling it without unknitting the entire narrative carpet. What starts as an art heist flick, starring James McAvoy as an art auctioneer and Vincent Cassel as a criminal, ends as a head trip about hypnosis, memory, domestic violence, pubic hair in classical art (don’t ask unless you really want the answer) and more. Rosario Dawson contributes to the latter as MacAvoy’s hypnotherapist. Boyle gets every last stylish drop out of this film. The set designs (see Cassel’s apartment), lighting and wickedly danceable soundtrack mask any narrative flaws. Trance is hypnotically watchable; just don’t try and recall too much of it once you’ve been awakened.

TYLER PERRY’S TEMPTATION (PG-13) Is it possible for a filmmaker to “jump the shark?” If so, Tyler Perry’s Temptation might be that point for Atlanta’s multi-hyphenate filmmaker. He cast Kim Kardashian, for goodness’ sake. And wait for Brandy’s climactic reveal. It’s the sort of melodramatic gem that could turn this dreck into popular camp were it less dull. A marriage counselor, Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), who feels neglected by her nice guy, pharmacist husband, Brice (Lance Gross), waltzes off with a handsome, ripped billionaire, Harley (Robbie Jones), after he offers her the good life of shopping, drugs, sex, etc. By the time Judith’s religious mother (Ella Joyce) wanders in to preach at her daughter (and the audience), it’s too late. Old Judith done let the devil in. Remember that post-Basic Instinct period of the early-to-mid '90s when a new erotic thriller was coming out each week? Well, imagine one of those Basic rip-offs minus all the risqué, headline-making sexuality; substitute a sermon instead, and you’ve got Temptation. Unfortunately, Perry seems too caught up in making easy box office cash to worry that much about reinforcing stereotypes. He’s probably got another hit, but at what cost? Not enough to outweigh his millions upon millions of benefits.

WARM BODIES (PG-13) Having witnessed many a zombie apocalypse, I can say with complete assuredness that Warm Bodies is not your usual end of the world via the flesh-eating living dead flick. This zomrom stars X-Men: First Class Nicholas Hoult (poised for a big year with March’s Jack the Giant Slayer) as R, who is not your typical zombie. Blessed (or cursed) with a rather rich inner life, R still munches brains but he’s conflicted about it, especially after meeting Julie (Teresa Palmer, Take Me Tonight). She kickstarts his heart, starting a chain reaction amongst all the corpses (the survivors’ term for zombies), except for the too far gone Boneys. Working from Isaac Marion’s oddly delightful premise, filmmaker Jonathan Levine, who’s on quite a roll (he’s 4-for-4 in my book) after 50/50, whips up a still horrific, mostly romantic early Valentine for adventurous couples and soft-hearted horror fans. Levine retains his spot on the young filmmaker’s to watch list (that maybe only I am keeping). Not wasting Rob Corddry, as R’s BLDF (Best Living Dead Friend), and John Malkovich, as Julie’s overbearing, military father, is another of the film’s boons. Ignore the mawkish CW-meets-Twilight marketing and enjoy some rare bloody romance/heartfelt horror.